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Theater Review: Small Cast Leaves Huge Impression In Brookfield’s ‘Blood At The Root’



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BROOKFIELD — The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts is always in motion. The group has worked tirelessly to consistently produce quality productions, both virtual and live, during this challenging time. The current production of Dominique Morisseau’s Blood at the Root is onstage to stunning effect. Featuring a powerful cast and beautifully directed by Renee Sutherland, it is not to be missed.

Morisseau tackles racism and implicit bias, stereotyping, and injustice among staff and students at the high school level in this piece. She has adeptly represented the struggle to understand each other with clarity and poignancy.

The central character, Raylynn (played by Nathaly Abreau), is an ambitious and forthright teenager. She has plans to upset the status quo and puts them into action.

Raylynn decides to be the first Black woman to run for class president and resolutely takes a seat under a tree usually occupied by white students. Mysteriously, three nooses appear, hanging from said tree. The haunting and horrifying presence of the nooses provokes conflict as well as unity.

A white student is then allegedly assaulted by six Black students, including Raylynn’s brother De’Andre (Trishawn Paul). Claiming they were provoked and a fight broke out, all six are arrested and charged with serious crimes.

De’Andre is tortured by his loss of control and the fight that broke out. Knowing full well what this could mean for his future, he is beside himself with grief. Raylynn approaches the white student, Colin (Ben Frazer), whose sexuality has been ridiculed and begs him to withdraw the charges.

A white reporter for the school newspaper, Toria (Ruby White) is determined to write about the incident and its aftermath with brutal and unrelenting honesty. The paper’s student editor Justin (Kevoy Somerville) stops Toria in her tracks with an emotional and heartbreaking reveal of his experience as a young Black man.

Raylynn’s white friend Asha (Lizzy Booth) is a joyful soul until she is made to recognize what she does not understand about race.

The school principal and police officer roles are played by Chris Fay. Kristin Aug plays the DA.

This play is rich with moments of revelation. The talented actors render their well-drawn characters fully and energetically. They capture a morass of emotions as they try and try again to care about and understand each other in a meaningful way.

Every performer in this piece is excellent. They each delivered show stopping monologues.

The music, notably featuring Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” stood to widen the lens through which race relations are examined.

The staging is brilliant with, for the most part, a single moving piece. The minimalist nature of the production allows for intense focus on the message and the compelling performances.

Congratulations to the Brookfield Theatre for the Arts, the cast, and the crew for a job well done.

Performances of the limited production continue just one more weekend, on Friday and Saturday, September 17-18. Visit brookfieldtheater.org for details and ticket reservations.

Dominique Morisseau’s Blood at the Root, currently onstage at the Brookfield Theatre for the Arts, features a powerful cast beautifully directed by Renee Sutherland. From left are Kevoy Somerville, Ben Frazer, Nathaly Abreu, Ruby White, Treshawn Paul, and Lizzy Booth in a scene from the limited production. —Stephen Cihanek photo
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